Development Assessment eSymposium

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Have you submitted a development application to Byron Shire Council? Or have you been involved in the development assessment and building process?

Was it easy dealing with Council or did you find it difficult or challenging?

As part of a review of our Development Services Council is looking for feedback on your experiences and any suggestions you may have around development assessment and the associated approvals processes.

The intention of the eSymposium is to:

  • Share past experiences (including what has worked well and what hasn’t)
  • Review current requirements, processes, fees and charges;
  • Consider and recommend efficiencies;
  • Investigating innovative or different processes implemented elsewhere;
  • Share challenges and difficulties arising from requirements from higher levels of Government (ie. State Government).

The whole community is invited to get involved and provide feedback on our services, your experiences and any suggestions you may have around development assessment and the associated approvals processes. We're looking to hear from everyone - consultants, 'mum & dad' applicants, builders, certifiers, plumbers, anyone who has a story to tell or is interested in helping us to improve what we do.

A brief overview of Development Assessment in NSW and Council's Certification program is provided below.


What you can do?

  • Take a Survey on your experiences submitting development applications or building certification certificates.
  • Visit our Guest book and give us feedback on your past experiences - the good, the bad or the ugly.
  • Go to the Ideas board and leave your ideas - no matter how far-fetched, on how we can do it better.

Our eSymposium will run until the end of the year. The results will be reported to Council and where relevant, used to improve our services.

Have you submitted a development application to Byron Shire Council? Or have you been involved in the development assessment and building process?

Was it easy dealing with Council or did you find it difficult or challenging?

As part of a review of our Development Services Council is looking for feedback on your experiences and any suggestions you may have around development assessment and the associated approvals processes.

The intention of the eSymposium is to:

  • Share past experiences (including what has worked well and what hasn’t)
  • Review current requirements, processes, fees and charges;
  • Consider and recommend efficiencies;
  • Investigating innovative or different processes implemented elsewhere;
  • Share challenges and difficulties arising from requirements from higher levels of Government (ie. State Government).

The whole community is invited to get involved and provide feedback on our services, your experiences and any suggestions you may have around development assessment and the associated approvals processes. We're looking to hear from everyone - consultants, 'mum & dad' applicants, builders, certifiers, plumbers, anyone who has a story to tell or is interested in helping us to improve what we do.

A brief overview of Development Assessment in NSW and Council's Certification program is provided below.


What you can do?

  • Take a Survey on your experiences submitting development applications or building certification certificates.
  • Visit our Guest book and give us feedback on your past experiences - the good, the bad or the ugly.
  • Go to the Ideas board and leave your ideas - no matter how far-fetched, on how we can do it better.

Our eSymposium will run until the end of the year. The results will be reported to Council and where relevant, used to improve our services.

We want your feedback

Tell us about your dealings with Council with respect to the DA process to help us improve our services.

Are you,  

  • a consultant who lodges applications regularly, 
  • a technical expert (ie. Engineer or Environmental Health expert) who may not lodge applications, but is involved in the preparation of reports that accompany an application.
  • a one-off applicant who self-managed their own project.
  • a neighbouring property owner who had to deal with Council throughout the assessment process.

Leave your details and any stories you want to share about your experience.

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I am a consultant who regularly lodges applications to Council. In 2020 I submitted a total of 111 applications within the DA Portal that were registered with a "PAN" reference. I also submitted a large number of "S68", "RA" and "CNR" referenced applications. I therefore have some (possibly) blunt comments for your consideration:
- I have found in the past that the Ecologists assessment of Vegetation Management Plans that are required to be submitted prior to a Construction Certificate to be extremely negative and drawn out, as if to almost re-assess the whole proposal, and with an attitude of imposing as much burden on the landowner as possible at the 11th hour when they are desperate to receive their Construction Certificate. Some clients honestly feel like they are being kicked one final time after enduring a DA assessment marathon and then step into another round of road blocks. My experience at 8 Short Street, New Brighton was terrible. The Ecological staff referred to planning controls that do not even apply to the site to adjudicate on and have revisions made to a basic VMP that should have been dealt within 1 week rather than months.
- Conditions place on consents are often not well thought through and/or contradict one another. In some consents approval is granted under S68 of the LG Act, yet a subsequent condition requires approval under S68 to be obtained. Some conditions have been cut and pasted from another property.
- Careful consideration should be given to what conditions are really required to be completed prior to the issue of a Construction Certificate. Do Council staff really want to hold up the commencement of a project, when tradespersons are all lined up and ready to go, just because Council would like an easement to be registered over a sewer line that has existed within the property without an easement for the past 30 years? Surely Council is not disadvantaged if some conditions are completed prior to the issue of an occupation certificate rather than prior to the issue of a Construction Certificate. If staff think about how they could apply good customer service and try to facilitate a quick succession to receiving a Construction Certificate, many of these conditions could be deferred to later in the consent, or not included at all.
- The DA tracking portal on the website is sometimes not accurately recorded. I have looked on the website and note that 3 referrals are outstanding, but when I phone the Council Planner to ask if there are any issues they advise that they have received all referral comments. I try to use this portal to inform my clients, but I need it to be up to date.
- The DA Tracker refers to "Other Referrals" yet provides no other details on who this referral is to. Surely it isn't hard to add "RMS Referral" of "RFS Referral" etc so that clients/consultants know where the application is at.
- I think there could be better customer service in some areas such as supplying information to DA applicants. I had an RFI from the Engineering team which asked for revised plans to show floor levels consistent with Council's Flood Planning Level. When I responded to ask what the Flood Planning Level height was for this site I was told to pay $180 and apply for a Flood Certificate to get that answer. This was a live DA. I found this absolutely terrible service. That staff member had the answer right in front of them but chose to apply the "How can I make this difficult" mentality rather than "How can I help".
- Two of my DA's were the subject of a change in DCP controls during their assessment which resulted in significant impacts on their completion. With no savings provisions written into the DCP change, one of the live DA's had to be withdrawn, the other required modifications to achieve compliance with the new controls. This gain was terrible customer service at its best. I spent a month preparing a DA in line with Council's controls, lodged the DA, then the DCP change came in and i was asked to withdraw. I had received approvals for the exact same Torrens Title subdivision arrangement just months before, but suddenly it was not possible to approve. I also had Council staff ignore my attempts to have another Torrens Title subdivision completed, sending multiple emails with no reply. Yet days after the DCP change took effect I received a response asking me to amend the proposal due to a non-compliance with the new rules. Very poorly played.
- I truly get RFI's that are clearly generated for the sake of sending an RFI, presumably to stop-the-clock on the DA assessment timeframe. Some of the RFI's are truly so petty (eg. "You haven't noted on your site plan that there is 15 square metres of indigenous plantings as stated in your BASIX Certificate"). I find it a bit frustrating to have to reply to petty RFI's over and over.
- I understand that Council likes to make their DA Assessment timeframes look better than what they are, but I question whether the clock is actually restarted when an RFI is responded to. I also question whether the long delays experienced during the initial lodgement phase are considered, and I would like to note that it can take over 2 weeks to receive a Notice of Determination after Council's DA tracker records the date of determination (eg. 40 Brownell Drive). This again is an example of poor customer service. Does it really take over 2 weeks for a Notice of Determination to be issued after a DA is determined? It should take 1 day.
- I think the Referral process to the Environmental Health Team needs to be looked at closely. I recently submitted a S68 for an OSMS approval at 305 Coopers Shoot Road. The application was lodged in late November. It was only allocated to Michael Bingham a couple of weeks ago. The poor client keeps asking me how it is progressing and I have to report that Council have barely even started on it.
- The Referral and meeting process for the Local Traffic Committee is even worse than the OSMS team. The Local Traffic Committee meet once every 2 months. They have a lead in time of weeks to include an item on their agenda. They require their minutes to be endorsed at a follow up Council meeting. The whole referral can take 3 months alone. The EP&A Act provides a 40 day timeframe for DA determinations, yet this one referral has a time line of several months. It is truly a poor customer service arrangement. I raised this issue with Council's Planning Manager and was told that I should have submitted the DA earlier as I knew how long things take - that is also poor service. The terrible Local Traffic Committee referral system needs a complete rethink.
- I have made submissions to publicly exhibited DCP changes that have been ignored. An example includes the recent Biodiversity Chapter in DCP 2014 which has some very restrictive controls, some which are at odds with common sense. I had staff recently apply these new DCP provisions when they advised that two Camphor Laurel trees that would be impacted by my proposed development would require compensatory planting and further planning assessment. These trees are a declared Noxious Weed in NSW, they can be removed without any approval what-so-ever, yet the new DCP chapter creates a ridiculous mindset that these trees suddenly have ecological significance and must be assessed if a DA is submitted with impacts on these weeds.
- It was an absolute blessing when Council put their GIS mapping portal on-line. Well done. This is a great tool. The more information that is available on line the better for the DA process. I encourage Council to look at new and expanded ways to provide DA related information on line. The flood planning levels should be on there. Anything that Council staff have access to that they use to generate RFI's should be made available so that consultants can review this documentation to try to address before lodging a DA.
- I often find I am asked to fill in a GIPA form to access the most basic information (eg. submissions to a DA or even a letter from a Govt Department). Staff should be empowered to provide info when requested without having to fill in a form which basically states that the applicant can access such information freely anyway.
- Conditions of consent are sometimes duplicated. Others generate unnecessary S68 or S138 applications.
- Council assessment staff allocate 2 hours contact each day. It is very common for me to put off calling staff until their contact hours kick in, only to find that they are not available. It has actually become an expectation of mine that some staff won't be available when I call.
- Some staff simply do not return phone calls or emails. Even after multiple attempts and after the passing of many weeks. I have had to resend emails that I sent multiple times that I originally sent months earlier with very simple queries. Luke Munro can testify to this.
- Whether a routine query or something more complex, staff often need to check with their supervisor. Rarely am I able to receive a quick and confident answers to even simple queries. This applies to Team Leaders and Assessment staff alike.
- Some Council staff rarely admit their mistakes and go out of their way to avoid a situation where they to own up to a mistake. It's not the end of the world to make such an admission. Mistakes happen. Staff should own up to their mistakes and apply good customer service to correct them. As a consultant it is very frustrating when blatant Council errors occur, yet staff hide the fact that it was an error on their part. My clients deserve an honest approach to their DA assessment. I take the blame as a consultant if I make an error, but I can't carry the blame of Council errors. Examples include staff forgetting to refer DA's to the NSW Rural Fire Service until 3 months after lodgement (eg 40 Brownell Drive), or forgetting to refer to NSW Rural Fire Service at all (23 Sunrise Lane). If a Council error delays the assessment of a DA, staff should be honest and admit it so their consultant doesn't look like they don't know what they are doing.
- I often receive correspondence from Departments outside the DA assessment team with just their Department name, without a contact person, as if they are hiding from being contacted. Good customer service is to put your name behind your correspondence. Eg. I receive correspondence from the Environmental Health Team etc. I had a ridiculous experience where Greg Smith stated in an email that he could not provide me with the name of the ET Engineer who requested information on a certain project as he was not allowed to do so. This was one of the most absurd situations I have come across and resulted in some unfriendly conversations with the ET staff when I finally made contact with them.
- Some staff have an unbalanced bias on minute details relating to BASIX commitments, taking pride in issuing RFI's for BASIX items that have no bearing on the outcome of a DA. Whilst this may achieve a stop the clock situation, it is at my end considered a waste of my time when I have genuinely important issues to deal with. The funny thing is, the standard condition placed on Council development consents in relation to BASIX clearly allows for changes to BASIX to be made without a Section 4.55. This proves how over the top some of these info requests are.
- I often feel that some Council staff have an attitude of "How can I create a problem for this proposal" rather than "How can I help this proposal to obtaining an approval".
- It is common to receive RFIs from Engineers for things that they could either ask for in a condition, or that they go ahead and request as a condition on anyway (even when it is provided). Eg. I may receive an RFI for stormwater or parking details, this info is provided, then the consent has conditions requiring stormwater and parking details.
- This is enough for now. I often have problems arise and I am more than happy to share.

Joe Davidson about 1 month ago

We live next to a house construction that is in breach of the height plane rules. Nothing has been done despite apparent inspections. This should not be something neighbours have to check. Surely the plans are checked for potential breaches before approval! It’s incredible that random or periodic inspections don’t happen. We had great difficulty getting plans approved 15 years ago when we were barely touching the height plane.

Pumpkin1 2 months ago

regarding DA tracker ..what is strange is i went to the council office this morning and spoke to the duty planner and she went on line to look at the DA tracker. On her screen appeared both the street number and a brief description of the DA on the list yet in my version online at home this does not appear ..I have checked this many times to see if i have made a mistake, but this is what happens ,,So wondering why and wondering if others have experienced the same problem ,,,Len Bates 0431928314

len in mullumbimby 3 months ago

Regarding using the DA tracker ..It would be helpful to put the address of the DA on the list ( and not just the DA number ) plus a brief description of what the DA is for...This will make searching the site more useful and easier to use.. At present if the DA number is not known each DA needs to be clicked on and downloaded to see what it is . This is particularly important as DA.s are no longer going to be notified in the paper so its not possible to know what DA number to look up ...

len in mullumbimby 3 months ago

I am a resident of Mullumbimby ..I wish to comment on searching the DA Trackersite to find out the details of DA application ..When searching for a DA on the Tracker site only the DA number appears on the list and you have to click on every one to find the DA you are looking for ..This is also the case if you click on the search word.. And when filling in the search details again you need the DA number and putting in an address is not sufficient ( the search site replies that it needs the DA number also ) ..So its very time consuming and annoying to try and find a DA without knowing the number?. What is needed is to list not only the DA NUMBER but the ADDRESS of the DA on the list .This is particularly important as notices are no longer going to appear in the newspapers .

len in mullumbimby 3 months ago